Dog’s killing has some questioning rules at Lake Mohegan
Published 12:00 am, Friday, October 6, 2017
FAIRFIELD — It had been three weeks since Abby Rohinsky had been at Lake Mohegan, and for good reason.
The last time she was there — Sept. 12 — her pet Shih-Tzu, Charlie, was attacked by another, larger dog. He died two days later because of the wounds received in the attack and septic shock and infection, according to the veterinarian.
In the eight years she had Charlie, Rohinsky said, she came with him to Lake Mohegan. As she stopped on the trail to point out where Charlie was attacked by labrador-pit bull mix, Rohinsky tears up. Charlie, she said, was her support dog.
“He had no control over that dog,” she said, of Parag Patel, the other dog’s owner. Patel, a Fairfield resident, was issued infractions for having a roaming dog, a nuisance dog and for failing to license the dog, called Tyler. Patel is also no longer allowed to have his dog off leash when off his property, and Tyler is not allowed at any of the town’s open space areas or beaches.
Charlie, as he most often was, was on a leash, Rohinsky said. The other dog was not, and at first, Rohinsky said, it’s owner was nowhere in sight. She said Patel did not attempt to get his dog off of Charlie; Patel said he tried to grab his dog by its collar, and then grabbed its legs and pulled it away. Patel told police his Tyler did go up to Charlie then ran behind Rohinsky before it attacked the smaller dog.
According to the police report, Patel adopted Tyler four months ago from Black Dog Rescue, a local group. He told police Tyler had been with other dogs, both bigger and smaller, and there had not been any problems.
Dogs are allowed off-leash at Lake Mohegan when away from the parking lot, but, maybe, Rohinsky said, dogs should have to be on a leash at all times when at Lake Mohegan. Recalling how she cradled her pet after the attack, Rohinsky said she would like to see something good come out of this event.
“This is open space, not a dog park,” Rohinsky said, “but people treat it as a dog park.” In Fairfield, dogs are not allowed on any of the town’s beaches from April to October, and during the off-season, must be leashed except at Jennings Beach. The regulations for open space areas states all dogs must be leashed or “kept under the control of the person responsible for them at all times,” leashed within 100 feet of a parking or picnic area, and no person may have more than three dogs with them at one time
Conservation Director Brian Carey said there has been no decision at this time by the Conservation Commission to discuss changing the leash requirements, “but that might change in the near future as these conflicts continue to grow between off-leash dogs and humans at Lake Mohegan.”
Enforcement is a real issue, Carey said, and his department does not have the authority to issue tickets for infractions at Lake Mohegan.
Animal Control officers will respond to complaints and can be found in the parking lot at the lake at times checking to make sure dogs are being leashed when in the lot.
Rohinsky said another option might be for the town to open a separate dog park.
Carey said his department has not be involved in any “substantive talks” about creating a dog park, “but in my experience, citing such a facility requires a lot of planning and outreach to neighbors.”
First Selectman Mike Tetreau said he has spoken with several people about a dog park. “There seems to be support for this concept,” he said, but no exact location has been pinpointed, and there are lots of details to consider. “So far, it is really more of a concept.”
A recent weekday morning found Diane Johnson, an Easton resident, along the banks of Lake Mohegan, tossing a stick into the water for Chloe, her two-year-old German shepherd mix, to retrieve.
“You have to know your dog,” Johnson said, about bringing her pet to the lake. “I can’t do sticks when there are a lot of dogs here.”
Johnson said she doesn’t like to come to the lake on the weekend because there are too many dogs, “but that’s the beauty of the place.” She said she comes almost every day, and when off-leash, Chloe never strays very far. “What I like about this place, if there are issues with other dogs, you can keep walking,” Johnson said, compared to a dog park.
Sonny Mehta’s dog, Sherwood, has been attacked three times at the lake. “What we need is a ranger,” Mehta said, “and what they could do is require that people that walk their dogs, have them registered and licensed. If you don’t, you have to leave.”
Like Johnson, Mehta is a daily visitor to the open space area. “Sometimes, twice a day,” he said. “We have some pretty good regulars. There are always a few dogs here that pick on other dogs, and a lot of times, that’s because of the owner ... the dogs follow their owner.”
Once, he said, after pulling another dog off of Sherwood, the other dog’s owner threatened to punch him in the face.
A Facebook page, Lake Mohegan Lovers, features daily photos of dogs enjoying Lake Mohegan but also includes some threads about the attack on Charlie.
There, dog owners are debating what, if anything, needs to be done to tweak the rules and regulations, and offers to train dogs. Several people posted that they stopped bringing their pets to the lake, some because of attacks on their own dogs.
“My two dogs have been repeatedly attacked at Lake Mohegan,” wrote Nicole Asher. “I stopped going years ago because of it. It has only gotten worse.”
“Our puppy was attacked at the lake in 2012 but escaped with only a leg injury. We are still too scared to return,” posted Katie Mickley-Gomez.
Debbie Reade Barrows wrote, “Seems more and more dangerous at the lake as time goes on due to the population increasing,” while Stefanie Renee posted, “If dogs being dogs bothers you then go somewhere else... you’re ruining it for everyone.” Stefanie Renee said the attack on Charlie “should not be a cause for mass panic and chaos.”
While Robert Keppler said Charlie’s death was tragic, and he was sorry for his owner, he said people need to grow up. “We’re all responsible for our dogs, and need to be held responsible,” he wrote. If a dog attacks yours, he said, you need to get their name, address, and take pictures. “Follow them to the lot,” he said. “The only practical solution I can see if for the individual at fault to be banned from the lake.”
Another poster, Bree Anna, seemed to agree. “I’m responsible for getting that person’s information. If you let that person walk away and don’t hold them accountable, that’s your fault. Either be prepared or don’t go.”
While there was a suggestion that maybe the trails need to be shut down to dogs, Gil Rodriguez said he “vehemently” disagreed with that idea. “You can’t punish everyone for the acts of one callous, irresponsible owner and their dog.”
Some posters said while their own dog is well-trained, others at the lake are not.
“I gave up on taking my dog to Lake Mohegan years ago,” posted Jerry Stein. “I worked hard to train my Molly but I can not take the risk that other owners are as diligent or responsible as I.”